How Coworking Spaces and Phones Can Co-Exist

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You’re tired and just need your morning cup of coffee. As you patiently wait in line for your turn to order, the guy in front of you receives a phone call. He proceeds with the call, speaking loudly, even as it’s his turn to order. Instead of putting the phone down, he motions for the barista to wait a moment as he finishes his call.

Twenty years ago, such a scenario wasn’t even possible. As phones transitioned from the kitchen wall to our pockets, phone etiquette becomes more important. Unfortunately, not everyone is so mindful of how their phone use affects others.

While proper phone etiquette is needed in every aspect of society, like at the coffee shop, it’s especially important at a coworking space. With so many individuals sharing an office space, it’s vital to be considerate of others while still being able to run your business as you need. If you’re a member of a coworking spot, here’s a few rules of phone etiquette to follow so coworking spaces and phones can co-exist.

Keep It Short

Even if people use their indoor voices, a phone call can still be disruptive to fellow coworking members. As your coworking members to respect the close proximity between each other by keeping their calls short.

Sometimes a quick two-minute call will be more productive than a string of emails or a bunch of short chats in Slack. Coworking members have a business to run and need to be efficient with their time. No one will fault them for taking a two-minute call. But an hour-long sales call in the middle of the public work area is another story. That’s when they’re signaling to everyone else that they’re totally unaware of how coworking spaces and phones work together. Or worse, it may give the impression that they just don’t care.

Use Indoor Voices

Do you remember when you were in grade school and the class started to get too loud? Your teacher would then ask everyone to use their “indoor voices.” This lesson still rings true as adults.

Just because people are able to speak loudly, it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to do so at all times. If members are working in a communal area of a coworking space, they should be allowed to take a phone call. Afterall, it’s not a library. Remind members that it is possible to be heard by the person on the other line without enunciating like they’re speaking to a crowd of 200.

Using a soft speaking voice will also demonstrate to fellow coworking members that they’re respectful of each other. They know they’re in a public space and complete silence is out of the question. But keeping a respectful decibel level while on the phone will help maintain goodwill among fellow members.  

Booking a Phone Booth

Many coworking spaces are acutely aware of the noise problem with member phone calls. A simple solution to this problem is to create small phone booths (also known as call booths or call rooms) for people to take a call. These booths allow members to speak at whatever sound level they’d like without having to worry about upsetting a neighboring coworker.

Specific call rooms also alleviate an externality of loud phone calls, overbooked conference rooms. There are some professionals who are aware that they speak loudly, or know they just need to make a long phone call. If there are no alternative options in the coworking space, people will find creative solutions. Unfortunately one such solution is booking a conference room. This solves the problem of obnoxiously loud phone calls, but now it creates a higher demand for conference rooms. Misused conference rooms can cause even more problems than coworking spaces and phones.

Building phone booths kills two birds with one stone. It’s a simple solution that will help create a more respectful and productive coworking space. If your coworking space offers a private phone booth, you should most definitely take your calls in there.

How to Deal with Disrespectful Callers

If the oblivious guy in the coffee shop line taught us anything, it’s that not everyone knows the unwritten rules of phone etiquette. Some people are just going to be disrespectful of other people around them.

That can’t happen at a coworking space. You need to get your business done. If you come across someone who just doesn’t follow the rules and ignores the needs of everyone around them, here’s how you can handle the situation.

  1. Remain Calm - Don’t lash out of anger. That will only exacerbate the situation. Calmly confront the individual about their phone habits. Show them the respect you’d like in return. 
  2. Be Direct -  Get right to the point. Don’t beat around the bush, or worse, leave a passive aggressive note. Clearly communicate what it is they’re doing and how it’s affecting you. 
  3. Offer an Alternative - Give the person a clear alternative for their phone calls. Identifying a problem is easy, but finding a solution is more difficult. If you don’t have a better place for someone to make a phone call, they won’t have a reason change their behavior. Make their decision easy with a specific solution. 

Coworking spaces and phones must find a way to exist peacefully. Everyone needs to make a phone call from time-to-time. A no phone policy won’t work but neither will a dozen loud phone calls at once. By using these three tips, you’ll be able to have a peaceful coworking space and still be able to use your phone.


Image Courtesy of Custom Spaces